Dr. Oz will never let your health get in the way of his ratings.

dr-oz-memeThe popularity of celebrity doctors always baffles me. Whether its Dr. Phil — whose license to practice psychology has been retired since 2006 — or, more recently, Dr. Oz.

In all fairness I have to admit that I’ve only ever watched a few episodes of Dr. Oz and those were mainly because someone else was watching it at the time, but that was enough to call into question any medical advice he has to offer. You see, he’s really big on “alternative” medicines and diet pills and he promotes them heavily on his show. Stuff like raspberry ketone or green coffee extract both of which he has proclaimed as “miracles in a bottle” on his show and both of which haven’t been shown to do jack or shit when it comes to weight loss. However, the lack of scientific evidence beyond a sketchy study or two isn’t enough to prevent Dr. Oz from promoting them heavily.

At it turns out, these outrageous claims by Dr. Oz have been egregious enough to land him in front of a Senate subcommittee that’s looking into the whole green coffee extract nonsense. There he was grilled by Senator Clair McCaskill, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. She did not go easy on him:

“When you feature a product on your show, it creates what has become known as ‘Oz Effect,’ dramatically boosting sales and driving scam artists to pop up overnight using false and deceptive ads to sell questionable products,” the Senator explained. “I’m concerned that you are melding medical advice, news and entertainment in a way that harms consumers.”

via Dr. Oz Grilled By Senator Over “Miracle” Weight-Loss Claims – Consumerist.

It’s a fair statement and you’re probably guessing that Dr. Oz ended up feigning ignorance or trying to claim the products really do work. Nope, he admits that — at best — the products he promotes as “miracles” are crutches that can not replace proper diet and exercise:

Dr. Oz openly admitted that the weight-loss treatments he mentions on the show are frequently “crutches… You won’t get there without diet and exercise,” and that while he believes in the research he’s done, the research done on these treatments would probably not pass FDA muster.

“If the only message I gave was to eat less and move more — which is the most important thing people need to do — we wouldn’t be very effectively tackling this complex challenge because viewers know these tips and they still struggle,” said the doctor. “So we search for tools and crutches; short-term supports so that people can jumpstart their programs.”

In short, he knows better. As he should if his medical degree is legitimate in any sense of the word. McCaskill wasn’t letting him off the hook so easily:

Sen. McCaskill quoted three statements that the great and doctorful Oz had made about different weight-loss treatments on his show:

•(On green coffee extract) — “You may think magic is make-believe, but this little bean has scientists saying they found the magic weight-loss for every body type.”

•(On raspberry ketone) — “I’ve got the number one miracle in a bottle to burn your fat” (raspberry ketone)

•(On garcinia cambogia) — “It may be the simple solution you’ve been looking for to bust your body fat for good.”

“I don’t get why you say this stuff, because you know it’s not true,” said McCaskill. “So why, when you have this amazing megaphone, and this amazing ability to communicate, why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?”

At this point the good doctor defended his claims on the basis that he believes the products in question do work despite the lack of any reason to do so and then admitted that his claims result in scam artists jumping to sell this crap to everyone dumb enough to listen to him, often using his likeness and statements to endorse it:

“I do personally believe in the items that I talk about on the show,” responded Dr. Oz, who acknowledged that statements he’s made in the past have encouraged scam artists and others looking to make a quick buck on people looking for an easy way to lose weight.

“I do think I’ve made it more difficult for the FTC,” he continued. “In the intent to engage viewers, I use flowery language. I used language that was very passionate that ended up being not very helpful but incendiary and it provided fodder for unscrupulous advertisers.”

Call me old fashioned, but when you’re making medical claims I would think you would want to avoid “flowery” language. However, this raises another point: The intent of Dr. Oz’s show isn’t to give you sound medial advice. It’s to entertain you. He feels he has to engage his viewers by making outrageous claims because apparently the truth won’t get him the ratings that really pulls in the big bucks.

“My job, I feel, on the show is to be a cheerleader for the audience and when they don’t think they have hope, when they don’t think they can make it happen, I wanna look — and I do look — everywhere… for any evidence that might be supportive to them,”

In short, he’s selling false hope. He’s willing to promote whatever quackery he can find that offers the smallest of hopes based on the flimsiest of evidence. Sure, that’ll probably make you feel good, but it isn’t doing you any favors. He’s perpetuating nonsense that does nothing but lighten your wallet. The worst part is, he knows it. A lot of the other pseudoscience bullshit peddlers out there at least have the excuse that they’re not really doctors or trained in medicine. Dr. Oz is and he admits that he knows better, but that won’t get him the ratings he needs.

Time for another “Les isn’t dead yet” update.

exercisemotivationI last wrote about my state of health back on August 2nd so I figured it was time to give those of you who are interested an update on my current status.

The short version: I’m not dead yet.

The long version: I’m doing better. I still haven’t lost any weight — in fact I shot up to 308 pounds at one point which was a first — but I am doing better. We still don’t know for sure exactly what my chest problem was, but it’s gone away and hasn’t been back and I’m no longer taking Prilosec for it. I’ve been trying to exercise and count calories since that incident flared up and I started off really strong managing to do 15 minutes on our elliptical every weekday morning for near three weeks until my back flared up and I took a week off. Since my back got better I’ve only managed two to three times a week for reasons including sore legs and back twinges. I’ve also given up on trying to accurately track my calories as the MyFitnessPal app only worked occasionally on my smartphone and figuring out dinner counts was way more of a hassle than it was worth. Not that it matters as even with over-estimating how much I was eating I was still coming in under what it said was my limit that should have made me lose a pound a week and yet, as you’ll recall from the first sentence, no weight loss has occurred.

I saw my doctor this past Monday and told her about how demoralized I was getting with the whole process. I’ve been told repeatedly the exercise will get easier. It hasn’t. I’ve been told to expect a little weight gain at first, but after a couple of weeks I’d drop below my starting weight. I haven’t and it’s been almost three months. I still can’t make it more than 15 minutes without risking my legs giving out. The only indicator I had that there was any improvement is that it now takes almost 10 minutes before I start sweating profusely whereas it was just a couple of minutes at the beginning. Other than that I’m making myself miserable and not seeing any positive results for it.

My doc is a smart lady. She knows I need something to show me I’m making a difference so she orders me to have blood work done right then and there without bothering to fast first as you’re supposed to. So I do as I’m told and yesterday we got the results back.

I mentioned last time that almost all the bad stuff was too high and the good stuff too low. I specifically mentioned that my sugar was 254 and this time it was 247 which is still high, but my HbA1C, which is an average of my blood sugar over the past few months, had dropped from 9.8 to 8.2. The goal is to get it to 7.0 or under and I’m headed in that direction. My total cholesterol has greatly improved dropping from 235 to 140 with the goal being less than 200. My LDL (bad cholesterol) went from 151 to 79, the target is 100 or less, but my HDL (good cholesterol) also dropped from 36 to 27. She says that happens sometimes when you lower the bad stuff and not to worry about it just yet. Finally my Triglycerides were 169 down from a high of 241 last time and the goal for that is less than 150. Considering this was a lab done without fasting that’s seems pretty good to me.

So the upshot of all that is I am far from perfect healthwise and I’ve not lost any weight yet (I was 299.6 on Monday), but I’m definitely getting better. She wants me to keep exercising for as long as I can managed it every other weekday (Mon, Wed, Fri) and if I can squeeze one in on the weekends that’d be gravy. I’m still trying to pay attention to calories and portion sizes and she’s pointed me to a couple of other possible apps to help with that. I go back for another lab and followup in three months.

I’m happy to see that at least something about my health appears to be improving, though even a tiny bit of weight loss would go a long damned way to helping my motivation. I don’t think I’ll ever be thin again, but losing at least a few pounds would be really nice. So I’m keeping at it. I’m not particularly good at it, but I’m managing it in my own way.

Yet another study shows using magnets for arthritis doesn’t do shit.

commonsenseThis shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone with half a brain, but there’s yet another study that shows slapping a magnet on your arthritic joints won’t do anything other than lighten your wallet.

From the NYTime’s health blog:

British researchers randomized 65 patients with rheumatoid arthritis to receive one of four treatments: wearing a powerful magnetic wrist strap, a weak magnetic strap, a non-magnetic strap and a copper bracelet. Each patient wore each device for five weeks and completed pain surveys. The study appears in the September issue of PLoS One.

The patients reported pain levels using a visual scale, ranging from “no pain” to “worst pain ever,” and recorded how often their joints felt tender and swollen. Researchers used questionnaires to assess physical limitations, and tested for inflammation by measuring blood levels of C-reactive protein and plasma viscosity.

There was no statistically significant difference in any of these measures regardless of which type of device patients were wearing.

It’s been nearly 10 years since the last time I bothered to write about a study showing that magnet therapy is bullshit, but it appears the popularity of this particular kind of snakeoil hasn’t waned in that time. Estimates are that the sales of magnet bracelets tops $1 billion a year worldwide despite there not being one double blind, randomized testing showing they have anything more than a placebo effect. And that’s just the bracelets. You can buy all manner of things with “healing” magnets in them these days from insoles to underwear.

The only good news to be had is that there are so many people pumping these craptastic products out these days that if you’re gullible enough to buy into the nonsense you won’t end up wasting huge amounts of money on them as they tend to be cheap.

One man’s solution to the obesity problem: Fat-shaming.

meanwhileinamericaBy now it’s pretty common knowledge that Americans have a growing (get it?) obesity problem. The word epidemic is used quite a bit to describe how big a problem it is. According to the Center for Disease Control the percentage of adults over 20 who are obese was 35.9% in 2009-2010. My home state, Michigan, is the fifth heaviest in the Union with 32% of adults here qualifying as obese. At 299.3 pounds I’m certainly part of the problem and I’m paying the price with things like my recent back problems.

So there’s really no argument here. We’re a bunch of fat bastards who could stand to lose a few pounds, but how do you get people to go about doing so? In Michigan the state government is rolling out a program to try and encourage folks (like me) to get off their fat asses and shed at least 10% of the body weight through exercise and eating a better diet. The program will mostly be an educational effort telling folks about the dangers of being overweight and offering encouragement to do better via an online website and/or text messages.

I can tell you that I know it probably won’t work on me. I’m already well aware of the potential problems of being obese and despite making some attempts to do something about it — choosing the weight watcher options when eating out and buying an elliptical that clogs up my living room collecting dust — I’m rapidly not losing any weight at all. I’m at the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life and I’ve been hovering around the 300 pound mark for several years now.

I can tell you what else won’t work. This guy’s solution of Fat-shaming:

Fat-shaming may curb obesity, bioethicist says – TODAY Health.

Daniel Callahan, a senior research scholar and president emeritus of The Hastings Center, put out a new paper this week calling for a renewed emphasis on social pressure against heavy people — what some may call fat-shaming — including public posters that would pose questions like this:

“If you are overweight or obese, are you pleased with the way that you look?”

Actually, yes, I wear my weight pretty well. A lot of folks who know me personally are surprised when I say I’m just a smidgen under 300 pounds. Sure, I’m heavy, but I don’t look that fat to most folks. It helps that I’m tall so it’s spread out a bit more than most. I’ve had folks describe me as “solid” when I’m about as solid as a giant marshmallow (and probably not even that solid). For a fat guy, I look pretty good. At least with my clothes on.

Callahan outlined a strategy that applauds efforts to boost education, promote public health awareness of obesity and curb marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

But, he added, those plans could do with a dose of shame if there’s any hope of repairing a nation where more than a third of adults and 17 percent of kids are obese.

“Safe and slow incrementalism that strives never to stigmatize obesity has not and cannot do the necessary work,” wrote Callahan in a Hastings Center Report from the nonprofit bioethics think tank.

The author circa Sep. 2010. I've not changed much since.

The author circa Sep. 2010. I’ve not changed much since.

The problem with this idea (to use the term generously) is that it assumes there isn’t any stigma or fat-shaming already taking place. I don’t get much of that myself because apparently I scare people by being big and beardy, but my sister has put up with it throughout her entire life. I can tell you that it doesn’t work as a motivation, though it does a great job of destroying one’s sense of self-worth. Of the three of us siblings, my younger sister is probably the best of us in terms of compassion, generosity, and just generally being a decent person yet she has been on the receiving end of some of the most heartless comments I’ve ever heard anyone receive about their weight. It’s probably safe to say that women in general have always suffered more from the stigma of being overweight because we, as a society, tend to hold them up to some pretty ridiculous ideals shaped and promoted by popular media whereas most men are considered halfway to genius if they can tie their shoes without drooling all over themselves. How many sitcoms over the years have had pudgy — if not outright obese — oafish, middle-aged men married to thin, attractive, brainy wives?

But I digress. The point is that there’s already plenty of fat-shaming and stigma being tossed around at fat people out there. Quite a lot of it coming from fat people themselves. I’m not sure how encouraging such behavior is going to improve anything in terms of getting folks to shed some pounds.

It certainly won’t work on me. My problem isn’t an educational one. I already know I’m not at a healthy weight and I’m well aware of the health risks that come with it. I’ve watched an uncle suffer from Adult Onset Diabetes before his death and my dad is struggling with it now having had it cost him most of his eyesight. My own back gives out on me on a semi-regular basis because it gets tired of carrying around all the excess weight.

My problem is motivation. I’ve never enjoyed exercise even when I was skinny way back in my youth. Which isn’t to say I never got any back then, but it was because I was “playing” not “exercising.” Riding my bike, playing baseball, running around like a crazy person pretending he’s a superhero, that was all exercise that didn’t feel like exercise. Then I became an adult and got a car and into computers and most of what I did for fun stopped being so physical and the pounds came rolling in. The non-exercise that was really exercise disguised as play went away and I didn’t have any real-exercise habits to take up the slack. And I hate exercising. Just typing the word sets my teeth on edge. Hated it back in school. Jumping jacks? Running laps? Sit ups? What kind of idiot do you think I am? When do we get to the fucking dodgeball game??

It took me 34 years to switch from regular sodas to diet pop and when I did it helped me lose about 40 pounds only to gain it all back within the next year. It took me another 6 years to give up on diet sodas. For the past four years or so the majority of the liquid I consume is plain old tap water. I hate water. I hate drinking water. I hate every single nanosecond of it. Not as much as I used to hate it, but I still hate it. Yet I do it. It took me entirely too long to make the switch even knowing it was a healthier choice and I would be better off for it.

I have the feeling that the same will be true of getting into the habit of exercise. I’ve made some starts at it in the last year or two and breaking down and actually buying a piece of exercise equipment was a big step in that process. Even if I’ve not been great at using it regularly. Part of the reason I keep it in the living room instead of moving it to the basement is, well, it’s because the fucker is too damned heavy to move down the stairs by myself, but also because having it in the living room gnaws at my subconscious and reminds me that I really do need to start getting on the damned thing. This latest round of back problems has been severe enough that it’s acting as a great motivator as well. It’s amazing how your body just giving the fuck up will get your stupid brain’s attention really fucking quick.

For as smart as I supposedly am, it seems I just have to do some things the hard way. It’s stupid. I know it’s stupid. I feel stupid for knowing how stupid it is. Yet it is my nature and I will continue to struggle with it — probably in the stupidest way possible.

[SEB Guest Post] Schools deny girls cervical cancer jabs on religious grounds.

It’s been almost three years (!) since I’ve written a Guest Post for SEB, but a recent news story here in the UK prompted me to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write something.

Over here in the UK, some religious schools have opted out of offering free HPV vaccines to their students. HPV – the Human Papillomavirus – is linked to as many as 70% of cases of cervical cancer and is therefore offered, free of charge, to girls aged 12 and 13. Around 1000 women die from cervical cancer each year, so this vaccine has the potential to save hundreds of lives. And normally, it is up to individual parents’ to opt their children out, but these schools have made the decision to opt out of the vaccine for all of their students.

The HPV vaccine is controversial – not because of any side effects, but because HPV is a sexually-transmitted infection. Consequently, some parents opt their children out as they do not want to encourage sexual promiscuity, or feel that because their religion forbids sexual intercourse before marriage that this is incompatible with their faith.

The key problem is that a number of these schools have not informed local doctors that they have chosen to opt out. Consequently, should a child’s parent actually want their child to have the vaccine, it is not subsequently being offered by their doctor and so some children may miss out.

What is laughable are some of the reasons given by the schools for opting out, such as:

“pupils follow strict Christian principles, marry within their own community and do not practise sex outside marriage”

Because we know how likely that is. Regular SEB readers will know that abstinence-only sex education is not effective and actually results in a higher rate of unprotected sex – and consequently puts both men and women at risk of contracting the virus. Although the vaccination programme only targets girls, men can carry the virus and it while it frequently results in no adverse symptoms, carriers are at a heightened risk of other cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some handy information if you want to read more.

Should schools be allowed to put the health of their students at risk in this way, in the course of religious observance? And if so, should such schools be forced to make the effort to provide parents with the information they need to seek alternative sources of the vaccine?

Doctors are taking a firmer stance with anti-vaxxers in their clinics.

Click to embiggen.

If anyone should know the benefits of vaccinations it’s pediatricians. With the growing number of parents refusing to vaccinate their kids the waiting room of your family doctor could be a dangerous place to be. So a number of doctors around the country are now insisting that parents with unvaccinated kids sign a waiver or find another doctor to go to:

Pediatricians get more firm when parents refuse vaccines for children – USATODAY.com.

Doctors are growing increasingly frustrated with what they characterize as misinformation linking childhood immunizations to autism, but many parents continue to be wary of vaccines. While parents research vaccine risks, their sources usually aren’t the medical journals that doctors read.

“My response usually is for them to look at credible, researched information and data and really make an informed decision for themselves versus what someone told them,” said Breaux, a doctor at Brentwood (Tenn.) Pediatrics.

Dr. Robert Lillard of Jr. of The Children’s Clinic of Nashville refers parents to websites for respected hospitals. Doctors have a responsibility to make their clinics as safe as possible, he said.

“We want you to feel if you’re in our waiting room that you are safe,” Lillard said. “By that I mean if you have to come in for a sick visit and you are sitting in the waiting room next to a child that has a rash, we want you to feel pretty comfortable knowing that’s probably not measles. If you are in our practice, you’ve been vaccinated against measles and you’re not going to be exposed to that.

This is a trend I hope will grow among doctors across the country. Pediatricians in particular are in a good spot to educate parents on the real risks and benefits of vaccines. If you don’t trust your doctor enough to provide advice on that topic then you are probably going to the wrong doctor. Or you’re an idiot.

*Cartoon by Stuart Carlson.

Fruit drinks are as bad, or worse, than soda in terms of sugar.

I gave up drinking regular soda in my thirties due to my weight and switched to diet sodas because they were “healthier.” Then it turns out they really aren’t all that much better for you so I gave those up as well. It’s been almost a year since I stopped drinking diet pop and in that time I’ve only broken down once, about three weeks ago, and I only drank half of it because diet pop had gone back to tasting like shit. My beverages these days consist mainly of way more water than I’d ever think I’d drink (it’s not uncommon for me to go through 4 32 oz bottles of it a day, if not more) and coffee.

Plus the occasional lemon-aid and/or fruit drink. But I try to avoid those as well because they also tend to be packed with sugar. Especially “fruit” drinks:

If you’re drinking fruit drinks because you think they’re healthier then you may as well go back to drinking soda. Because it’s pretty much the same thing in terms of sugar intake. You can find juice drinks that are mostly juice, but you have to really read the labels to make sure you’re not getting fruit-flavored sugar water. I track them down from time to time when I get sick of drinking water all the time, but these days it’s easier (if less flavorful) to just drink water.

Still hatin’ every burning second of it, but I’m doing it.

Gonorrhea may soon be an untreatable disease.

The problem of antibacterial resistance is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a growing one and it’s looking like Gonorrhea is near to joining the already too-long list:

Gonorrhea Could Join Growing List of Untreatable Diseases – Yahoo! News

Gonorrhea is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world with about 600,000 cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year. A few years ago, investigators started seeing cases of infection that did not easily respond to treatment with a group of drugs called cephalosporins, which are currently the last line of defense against this particular infection. Now, the number of drug-resistant cases has grown so much in the U.S. and elsewhere that gonorrheal infection may soon become untreatable, according to doctors writing in the February 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

There have been reports on resistant forms of E. colituberculosis, and pneumonia in the recent past and there isn’t a whole lot of research being done on new antibiotics to replace the ones that are becoming useless. I wonder if the potential for Gonorrhea becoming untreatable will motivate some companies to invest in the research. Think of the profits that could be made.

In the meantime, be careful who you bump uglies with. There’s more than AIDS out there to be worried about.

The potential one shot Leukemia cure that almost never happened.

There’s a new experimental cure for the most common form of Leukemia that has scientists stunned at how successful it is with only a single injection. And it almost never came about due to lack of funding:

Doctors had told Bill Ludwig, one of the research volunteers, that he would die from his leukemia within weeks. Then he got the experimental treatment a year ago.

With tears welling up, he told NBC, “I’m more closer to the people I love and I appreciate them more… I’m getting emotional… the grass is greener and flowers smell wonderful.”

The other two patients have chosen to remain anonymous but one who happens to be a scientist himself wrote,  “I am still trying to grasp the enormity of what I am a part of  — and of what the results will mean to countless others with CLL or other forms of cancer. When I was a young scientist, like many I’m sure, I dreamed that I might make a discovery that would make a difference to mankind – I never imagined I would be part of the experiment.”

via New leukemia treatment exceeds ‘wildest expectations’ – Health – Cancer – msnbc.com.

Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania published research on Wednesday on their efforts to come up with a treatment for chroniclymphocytic leukemia (CLL) which is the most common form of Leukemia. Usually it’s treated with chemotherapy, but that’ll just keep it at bay. The only way to cure it previously was via a bone marrow transplant which only has about a 50% success rate and brings with it a whole host of problems.

This new treatment involves using a modified version of the HIV virus to insert modified genes into white blood cells collected from the patient which makes the white blood cells into lean, mean, cancer killing machines. They cultivate a whole bunch of these new super-powered white blood cells and then inject them back into the patient:

In similar past experimental treatments for several types of cancer the re-injected white cells killed a few cancer cells and then died out. But the Penn researchers inserted a gene that made the white blood cells multiply by a thousand fold inside the body. The result, as researcher June put it, is that the white blood cells became “serial killers” relentlessly tracking down and killing the cancer cells in the blood, bone marrow and lymph tissue.

As the white cells killed the cancer cells, the patients experienced the fevers and aches and pains that one would expect when the body is fighting off an infection, but beyond that the side effects have been minimal.

How awesome is that? That’s pretty fucking awesome! So why did it almost not happen?

Both the National Cancer Institute and several pharmaceutical companies declined to pay for the research. Neither applicants nor funders discuss the reasons an application is turned down. But good guesses are the general shortage of funds and the concept tried in this experiment was too novel and, thus, too risky for consideration.

The researchers did manage to get a grant from the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, a charity founded by Barbara and Edward Netter after their daughter-in-law died of cancer. The money was enough to finance the trials on the first three patients.

There’s still a ways to go before this will become widely available, but it’s a stunning result so far to cure two out of three people and on the one it didn’t cure it still made a helluva difference. Most exciting is the fact that this technique could possibly be effective on other forms of cancer as well. The good news is that there should be plenty of funding coming in now to really put it to the test and see if these results are a fluke or a real breakthrough.

*Science. It works, bitches graphic lifted from the XKCD store where you can buy it on a t-shirt!

New research suggests artificial sweeteners no help in battle against obesity.

Well this just fucking sucks:

Epidemiologists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio reported data showing that diet soft drink consumption is associated with increased waist circumference in humans, and a second study that found aspartame raised fasting glucose (blood sugar) in diabetes-prone mice.

“Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised,” said Helen P. Hazuda, Ph.D., professor and chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology in the School of Medicine. “They may be free of calories but not of consequences.”

via Waistlines in people, glucose levels in mice hint at sweeteners’ effects: Related studies point to the illusion of the artificial.

I’ve said before that as a younger man I used to swear that I’d never switch to diet pop because it tasted so awful. Then I hit my early 30’s and got married and my daughter came to live with me and I suddenly was responsible for a lot more than just myself. So when the doctor told me I was borderline diabetic and suggested I switch from regular to diet pop to help me lose weight I took to heart that advice. It took awhile to make the switch, but I eventually did and it did make a difference, at first. I lost close to 40 lbs only to gain it all back within the year.

Given the findings of these studies, I’m not surprised by the the return of the weight:

Measures of height, weight, waist circumference and diet soda intake were recorded at SALSA enrollment and at three follow-up exams that took place over the next decade. The average follow-up time was 9.5 years. The researchers compared long-term change in waist circumference for diet soda users versus non-users in all follow-up periods. The results were adjusted for waist circumference, diabetes status, leisure-time physical activity level, neighborhood of residence, age and smoking status at the beginning of each interval, as well as sex, ethnicity and years of education.

Diet soft drink users, as a group, experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference compared with non-users. Frequent users, who said they consumed two or more diet sodas a day, experienced waist circumference increases that were 500 percent greater than those of non-users.

Given that I’ve cut way back on the amount of sugar I consume I have been surprised to find that my glucose levels still showed as high on blood tests where I’d been fasting beforehand. If the research on mice is any indication then I now know why:

One group of the mice ate chow to which both aspartame and corn oil were added; the other group ate chow with the corn oil added but not the aspartame. After three months on this high-fat diet, the mice in the aspartame group showed elevated fasting glucose levels but equal or diminished insulin levels, consistent with early declines in pancreatic beta-cell function. The difference in insulin levels between the groups was not statistically significant. Beta cells make insulin, the hormone that lowers blood sugar after a meal. Imbalance ultimately leads to diabetes.

“These results suggest that heavy aspartame exposure might potentially directly contribute to increased blood glucose levels, and thus contribute to the associations observed between diet soda consumption and the risk of diabetes in humans,” Dr. Fernandes said.

Well fuck me.

I’ve been working on not drinking as much soda for awhile now, but I’m still not a huge fan of drinking water and it’s difficult to find anything other than water to drink when dining out so I’m still consuming some diet soda on a regular basis. But I am doing better. I regularly have at least two cups of water at work and a couple more at home in the course of a day. Now I guess I’ll have to make an effort to cut out diet pop altogether.

Which is upsetting because a good cold soda is one of life’s little pleasures on a hot summer day. Something that a cold glass of water just doesn’t compare to. But I’ll suck it up and put my big-boy pants on and just deal with it.

But I’m still going to pout about it.